10/19/2015 20:44 EDT | Updated 10/19/2016 01:12 EDT

Liberals make strong gains in Nova Scotia at expense of NDP and Tories

AMHERST, N.S. — A 70-year-old former Conservative who returned to politics in Nova Scotia to battle Stephen Harper's governing style gave the Liberals reason to celebrate early on election night.

Bill Casey decisively won the riding against the incumbent Scott Armstrong, as the Liberals gained victories in ridings that had been Tory strongholds for decades across Nova Scotia.

Casey became a folk hero in Nova Scotia when he was expelled from Harper's caucus in 2007 after he voted against the party's budget, saying it would hurt Nova Scotia's offshore oil and gas industry.

His decision to defy Harper earned him a reputation as a regional champion, helping him win the riding in a landslide as an Independent in 2008 before stepping down as he recovered from cancer.

Casey's win was part of a wider Liberal success story in the province as early results poured in.

In Central Nova, Liberal Sean Fraser won the seat previously held by Peter MacKay, the justice minister who decided not to seek re-election this time. Fraser beat Tory candidate Fred DeLorey.

Fraser, a lawyer running in his first campaign for the Liberals, defeated DeLorey, the former Harper staffer who was nominated to run in MacKay's former riding.

Political scientists had described the Central Nova seat as a family dynasty, as constituents who voted for Elmer MacKay seemed content to shift their loyalty to his son when the younger MacKay first ran in 1997.

In Dartmouth-Cole Harbouir, New Democrat Robert Chisholm lost his seat to Liberal challenger Darren Fisher.

And Halifax New Democrat MP Megan Leslie, a deputy leader of the party, was trailing Liberal Andy Fillmore. The New Democrats have held the Halifax riding for almost 20 years.

Popular New Democat Peter Stoffer was running second in Sackville-Preston-Chezzetcook to Liberal Darrell Samson.

Meanwhile, on the province's south shore, the departure of Conservative MPs Gerald Keddy and Greg Kerr from politics before the election also created openings for Justin Trudeau's campaign.

The Liberals were leading in both south shore seats.

In Cape Breton, Liberal MPs Mark Eyking and Roger Cuzner both cruised to early victories in their ridings, as did Geoff Regan in Halifax West and Scott Brison in Kings-Hants. 

The recent political history of the province has seen all of the parties go through cycles of rapid rise and fall.

The Liberals last swept Nova Scotia came in 1993, when they took all 11 seats as Jean Chretien won his victory over Kim Campbell.

It was short lived, as four years later every Liberal in the province lost their seat in the wake of federal budget cutbacks, allowing the Tories to regain strength and the NDP to become a provincial force.

The New Democrats have retained seats in the province over the past decade, and began the race hoping to make gains in rural areas while holding their strength in Halifax and the suburb of Dartmouth.

Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press